The West Hollywood West Residents Association has filed suit against the City of West Hollywood over the City Council’s approval of the 8899 Beverly project.
The suit, filed in L.A. Superior Court, asks that the court order the city to revoke its decision to grant the developers of the project an exception to WeHo’s general plan and a change in the zoning ordinance. That exception, granted by the City Council in August, allows the developer to almost double the size of the existing 90,000-square-foot building, which already is twice the size of what is permitted for that area under the general plan. The 10-story building was constructed in 1962, 22 years before West Hollywood was incorporated as a city and thus was “grandfathered” into the general plan, which limits commercial buildings in the area to three stories and a smaller mass on the 1.7 acre lot.
The developer is Beverly Blvd. Associates, a limited partnership controlled by Townscape Partners of Beverly Hills that also is party to the lawsuit. It intends to convert the office building, which sits on the north side of Beverly between Almont and Robertson, into 52 condominiums with an additional 15 units for low- and moderate-income people. It also plans to build nine single-family houses on Rosewood Drive behind the 8899 Beverly building.
The project has been controversial since its inception. Residents of West Hollywood West, an area largely composed of single-family homes that lies north of the project, have been particularly vocal. They have raised concerns about the impact of traffic from the project on their neighborhood. They also have expressed concern about the design of the north-facing side of the building. And they have objected to the design of a group of town homes on Rosewood that the developer originally proposed.
Townscape also raised hackles when it was discovered that its original plan called for segregating low- and moderate-income residents from amenities, such as a swimming pool, available to the condo owners. That “poor door” approach has been the subject of heated debate in major cities such as New York City and Chicago. Townscape eventually moved those units into the main 8899 Beverly building, grouping them on the same level in what has been criticized as a “poor floor” tactic.
Some residents also were upset to discover that Townscape; its owners, Tyler Siegel and John Irwin, and their family members and lawyers, none of whom live in West Hollywood, have spent thousands of dollars supporting West Hollywood City Council incumbents in recent elections. In 2013 Townscape gave $2,500 to a committee established to fight what turned out to be a successful effort to limit incumbent City Council members to three terms in office. Term limits were supported by City Councilmember Lauren Meister and Councilmember John D’Amico, the only two current council members who voted against approving the 8899 Beverly project.
Siegel, Irwin and family members also donated $8,000 to Councilmember John Duran for his last City Council race and for his unsuccessful race in 2014 summer for the 3rd District Seat on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. Duran voted to approve the project. Townscape donated $10,000 to “WeHo United for John Heilman for City Council 2015,” an independent expenditure group backing Heilman’s election campaign. Heilman also voted in favor of the project as did Mayor Lindsey Horvath.
Acquiring 8899 Beverly with the hope of doubling its size and converting it into condos was a gamble. Siegel and Irwin, former employees of the Related Companies, a New York-based real estate firm, spent a reported $40 million to buy the 49-year-old office building. At the time, the L.A. Business Journal described it as one of the largest acquisitions in recent years. Nearly doubling the size of the 90,000-square-foot building and selling it off as condominiums, which by some estimates are going for as much as $600 a square foot in West Hollywood, likely will gross more than $100 million for the developers.
The WHWRA suit makes many of complaints, some tied to complex interpretation of city and state laws regarding zoning and land use. The suit argues that city’s general plan permits only “limited housing” on Beverly Boulevard, and that it states such housing “should be focused on artist/live work housing,” which is not the case with the Townscape project. It disputes the use of several million dollars pledged by Townscape for public benefits. For example, Townscape plans to spent $1.25 million to subsidize the losses of Madeo restaurant, which is inside the 8899 Beverly building, while the building undergoes development. The suit argues that it’s not clear how a $1.75 million payment for Beverly Boulevard streetscape improvements is to be spent in a way that connects the improvements with the project. All in all, the suit says, “these (unenforceable) promises represent a blatant attempt to ‘buy’ a zoning variance under false guise of the adoption of a specific plan … in contravention of the City’s zoning codes and state law.”
I live very close to this and support the project. Honestly this is great area and could have more density. It’s walkable and close to everything, if anything we need more density another tower on this land. It would expand the property tax base and bring more business to the area, thus giving the city more money to improve services for everyone.
I agree with Mark and I also live in West Hollywood West very close to that building. I’m not against the conversion of the building as a mater of fact I support it’s redevelopment but doubling it’s size goes against the master plan. If we allow this developer to double the size of an already large building shouldn’t every other developer be given the same approval? Where does this stop and why have a master plan in the first place if we’re not going to follow it? Speaking of whiney people, I am also tired of bitter whiney people like… Read more »
As a resident, I am for this project if it within the boundaries of the law. Just because a city council approves it does not mean it is legal. Build it to zoning code and 4 stories and it should be approved.
Does the homeowners association want their own version of the Target on Sunset and Western? Do they prefer the parking lot up against their neighborhood as opposed to new single family homes that will increase the value of their homes? It is just stupidity reigning in some of our neighborhoods.
I am in line with Alison, Jim and Chris. There is a lengthy process in place and this project went through that process and was approved. If Lauren Meister spearheaded this lawsuit ..that should be something that should be looked at. I voted for her once…never again.
I live in West Hollywood West and am not against the conversion of the office building to condos or the townhomes in the back. I actually support it – just not the doubling of the building size that is already far bigger than the 3 stories zoned for that area, I am definitely pro development as long as it’s within the zoning that took years to develop.
Cannot say it any better than Alison and Jim. Can’t wait until their shill Lauren Meister is ousted from the council. These people are an embarrassment to the city, and negate whatever valid concerns they have by their unrelenting NIMBYism.
The West Hollywood West Residents Association has overstepped it bounds. Many of us West Hollywood West Residents support the 8899 Beverly Project. This lawsuit was spearheaded by a sitting city council member Lauren Meister which should be against the law. Shame on the West Hollywood Residents Association for filing this lawsuit without the approval of all its members.
@Alison. How does their, the residents, decision affect you in any way? It’s their neighborhood and they are property owners so they do have a say, IMO.
I am going to puke here. I have never seen such a mean-spirited, uninformed, entitled bunch of babies in my life. This isn’t a legal issue, it’s a WAHH WAHH WAHH – I WANT MY WAY Issue. This is like the child in the supermarket who wants his candy NOW, and kicks and screams about it until his or her poor parent, at wits end, knowing that they cannot strike their child, gives in, except, that we in the city and I trust in the courts are wise enough not to give in. Reality Check here – renters and property… Read more »
Right on for WEHO West. It high time we end the never ending exceptions from the rules. The developer crafted a very sophisticated strategy to circumvent the current zoning and overall general & specific plans and with council members in their literal pockets won. This law suit challenges the city to live up to its own zoning and general plan rules on this and other future projects.
The West Hollywood West Neighborhood Group is a bunch of whiny homeowners. This project will not effect them very much, if at all. They just don’t like it. They are getting to be as bad as The La Mirada Neighborhood Association in Hollywood, which sues over every development in Hollywood. Robert Silverstein has gotten very rich like that. How long is this going to go on? It’s been to Planning, it’s been to the Council, it’s been approved (if I remember correctly)…they lost, but won’t accept it, so now they are going to court. It is ridiculous. If they have… Read more »